Personal Explanation by Minister of State.

The Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment, Deputy Eithne Fitzgerald, has given me notice in writing that she wishes to make a personal explanation. I have decided to permit this statement by the Minister of State. It must be heard without comment or intervention of any kind in accordance with long standing practice and precedent.

There was a reference in the House this morning to invitations I issued to a fund-raising lunch to be held later this month at which the Minister for Finance is to be a guest speaker. These invitations were issued on the normal notepaper I use for constituency purposes which gives, as its address, my Dáil office which is located in Government Buildings; they were not issued on official office of the Tánaiste or other departmental notepaper. It was made clear in the letter that any proceeds would go to the Dublin South Labour party, replies to be addressed to my personal secretary, Derek Ó Broin.

I realise that invitations to this function should have been sent out on Labour Party notepaper and I have arranged to send the remaining invitations on such notepaper.

I apologise to the House for any impression that may have been created that this was an official rather than a Labour Party function.

Is the hooley still on?

(Interruptions.)

I am calling item No. 13 — Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Bill, 1996: Second Stage(Resumed). Deputy Liam Lawlor was in possession.

A Cheann Comhairle, on a point of information——

Deputy Molloy will have heard me say that a personal statement of this kind must be heard without comment or intervention in accordance with long standing practice and precedent in this House. That is how it shall be.

Does the Minister of State intend proceeding with this luncheon?

(Interruptions.)

Will Deputy Lawlor please resume the debate or I will call another speaker.

A Cheann Comhairle. I want to ask a very simple question——

Not on that subject, no, Deputy.

(Interruptions.)

——because I warned them.

(Interruptions.)

The time for such explanation was when the Ethics in Public Office Bill was being debated in the House; it is too late now. The Minister of State is a complete hypocrite; that is what she looks like now.

I have already repeated that a personal statement of this nature must be heard without comment or intervention in accordance with long standing precedent and practice.

(Interruptions.)

I want to ask a very simple question.

Deputy Connolly, please restrain yourself, you have heard the pronouncement of the Chair. Resume your seat forthwith.

I warned Members of the Labour Party over a period of three years but they would not listen to me. Now the stone has landed at their door; they never told us they were seeking £100 from anybody.

Or £150.

I never knew about this. Why was it not referred to the ethics committee?

Will the Deputy please resume his seat?

As the record will show, I laboured this point but they did not listen to me. Now it has come home to roost. The stone has landed at the door of the Labour Party.

This Deputy should get a free ticket.

Is the function still on, Deputy Quinn?